Friday, January 29, 2016

RIP Paul Kantner: An Excerpt from "Records Truly Is My Middle Name"


Paul Kantner, the leader of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, passed away yesterday at the age of 74. Kantner was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Time Magazine has the details.

In the book "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", John Landecker tells the story of his trip down to Dallas to record a song with the Jefferson Starship, and Paul Kantner played a memorable role. Here is that story...

In 1979, a momentous political event happened in Chicago. The city elected its first female mayor, Jane Byrne. By a strange twist of fate, Byrne became the Mayor of Chicago around the same time the song “Jane” by Jefferson Starship became a hit.

I had the idea to do a parody song about our mayor to the tune of that song. This is another story about the power of WLS. Because of who we were, and the number of listeners WLS had, someone actually managed to get Jefferson Starship to send me a mix of the song, recorded by the actual band, without any lead vocal on it.

I decided, in my grandiosity, that this wasn’t big enough. Now that I’m looking back at this, I can’t even begin to understand how in the world I pulled this off, but I did. I flew down to Dallas where Jefferson Starship was performing, and the record company flew in Jefferson Starship’s producer Ron Nevison with the original tracks to the song. Even though I was all fucked up on coke and couldn’t sing for shit, with the use of technical wizardry, Nevison somehow managed to put together a passable version of the song.

The hotel that night was wild. Just imagine, all of these people were staying there at the same time: Jefferson Starship, Molly Hatchet, Michelle Phillips from the Mamas and the Papas, and a former member of the Brady Bunch. It was quite the scene. The day after the recording, Paul Kantner, Nevison, Paula and I drove into Dallas. Kantner had some pot and lit up a joint in the car, but before passing it he warned me: “It’s really strong stuff.”

Paul was right.

He also said that Grace Slick told him that the shopping center we were going to reminded her of Oz. OK, Grace, if you say so.

My parody of “Jane” got a good reaction on the air, but it wasn’t the only song I wrote about Jane Byrne. Around this time, I hung out with a band called The Kind. After I got off the air, I would go out and see these guys, get drunk, go up on stage, and sing “Gloria” with them. Eventually I got The Kind to back me on another parody song about Jane Byrne called “Cabrini Green” which was done to the AC/DC song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” It was about her controversial and bizarre decision to move into the Cabrini Green housing projects to prove that they really were safe.